Former aides of Virginia Republican Congressman Tom Garrett were quoted in POLITICO on Friday saying he and his wife Flanna Garrett regularly treated them like personal servants.
Turmoil in Tom Garrett’s office
The POLITICO article capped off a week of turmoil and confusion at Garrett’s US House of Representatives office. On Tuesday his chief-of-staff Jimmy Keady quit, apparently amid allegations that the Garretts were misusing official resources.
On Wednesday it was reported that Garrett himself might be calling it quits. This alarmed Republican officials who are already worried about Garrett’s seat after the paltry amount of fundraising he has managed thus far. But Garrett changed his mind before the day was out, saying, “There is no way in heck that I’m not going to be back here in 2019 as a member of the Congress representing the 5th District of Virginia. Too darn much is at stake.”
He may be determined to fight on, but the sensational allegations of staff doing menial chores will only make his reelection bid more strained.
Gophers for the Garretts
POLITICO spoke to four of Garrett’s former staffers who all told similar stories. Among the menial tasks outside their official duties mentioned were:
- Being sent out to shop for groceries for the Congressman and his wife.
- Driving the Congressman’s children to and from his Virginia district.
- Babysitting and cleaning Garrett’s dog, Sophie
- Being sent out to get replacement clothing for Garrett when he had forgotten items or needed clean ones.
Both full-time staff and interns were reportedly asked to do these personal tasks. With orders coming from both Tom Garrett and Flanna, staff became demonalized and confused. One told POLITICO, “I didn’t know who I was working for: Was I working for him? Was I working for her? We became their gofers.”
The couple have been described as having explosive tempers, and aides supposedly feared if they refused to do the jobs they might be fired and then could struggle to find work in another Congressional office.
A spokesman for Garrett, Matt Misen, issued a strong denial of the allegations:
“We see no reason to respond to anonymous, unfounded allegations primarily targeting Congressman Garrett’s wife, made by POLITICO’s ‘unnamed’ sources. It is easy to spread untruths and even easier to exaggerate and imply wrongdoing when none exists.”
And Garrett, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, still has defenders among the like-minded.
1) Tom and Flanna Garrett are phenomenal people. 2) Tom is one of the few people in Congress looking out for conservatives. Get the full story before passing judgment on people you don’t know.
— Sam Azzarelli (@samazzarelli) 25 May 2018
Can the GOP afford to lose Tom Garrett?
A week of chaos is the last thing Garrett’s campaign needs. The once-solidly red Virginia 5th District is now in play for the mid-term election in November. Democrat Leslie Cockburn has raised $715,000 for her campaign so far, a figure Garrett trails by nearly $300,000.
And coming right before school summer vacations and a lull in media coverage, revelations of Garrett’s shambolic operations will be difficult to shake for the next few months.
Fears of being wiped out by a “blue wave” may be receding in the minds of some Republican strategists, but with such a high number of Republicans resigning or choosing not to run again, the GOP need Garrett. No doubt they hope he will start raising more money, find a new chief of staff, and get someone else to fetch his dry cleaning.
UPDATE: On May 28th Tom Garrett announced for a second time he would not be seeking reelection in November. He sited a previously undisclosed struggle with alcoholism as the main reason. The story was first reported by the Washington Post.